Low levels of inorganic lead chronically administered during critical periods of development result in behavioral alteration and neurochemical changes. Among the changes seen consistently are alterations in central and peripheral cholinergic function. Administration of several drugs that influence cholinergic metabolism influences the behavioral effects of lead. In the peripheral nervous system, lead in vitro has been shown to impair cholinergic function in several different experimental models. Lead inhibits the release of ACh from the superior cervical ganglion of the cat during stimulation of the preganglionic fibers, decreases the size of the end-plate potential in the frog and rat neuro muscular preparations, and reduces the force of muscle contraction during nerve stimulation. The pharmacological evidence obtained in studies on whole animals and direct measurements of ACh release and turnover indicate that the release of ACh in the central and peripheral nervous systems is impaired by both acute in vitro and by chronic in vivo exposure t o lead.
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